Track set to impress at Drake Relays


Michaela Roman

Sprinter A-Shawni Mitchell sprints at Kidd Field during the UTEP Invitational on April 12.

Luis Barrio, Staff Reporter

Being a little less than a month away from the Conference USA Outdoor Championships, the Miners are headed to Des Moines, Iowa, to compete at the 105th Drake Relays April 24-26.

The competition is actually a weeklong event, but the Miners will not be arriving until later in the week because of the events they are competing in.

The Miners most recent success came at their final outdoor meet at the UTEP Invitational, which was held April 12 at Kidd Field. It was the venue for top finishers wearing blue and orange.

In the latter portion of the season, the track and field team has given head coach Mika Laaksonen plenty to boast about before they get into the nitty-gritty part of their season.

“Performances really showed us a team that could be a threat at the Conference USA Championships,” Laaksonen said. “The team is performing well to what we know they’re capable of and I am pleased with the meet’s outcome.”

El Paso native Daniel Tarango is coming off of a gold medal finish at the UTEP Invitational in the 800-meter run. UTEP’s Sven Zellner achieved overall victory in the 110-meter hurdles.

Tarango said he likes that the meet will be outdoors and that the weather at the UTEP Invitational has helped in preparing for the Drake Relays.

“It’s a good meet because it’s a big meet. There is a lot of really good athletes,” Tarango said. “A lot of people (will be) watching, so it’s a great meet to do good things that you can use for the conference championship. It’s a good meet to get mentally prepared.”

Tarango said that he understands the process of being an athlete and the changes an athlete’s body undergoes year in and year out.

Senior Mark Jackson will be competing in the 4×100-meter relay along with Tarango as well as in the triple jump. Jackson won the triple jump gold at the Drake Relays a year ago.

“I can defend my title in the triple jump and try to win a new pair of Oakley’s (sunglasses) and a shirt. That’s the prize if you win,” Jackson said. “I’m hoping for the team to have lots of good performances that will improve us in the rankings nationally as well as for conference.”

Among the women, one of the strongest competitions for the Miners is the 100-meters with hurdles. Senior Janice Jackson will be one of the strongest competitors at the meet, and her teammates Great Karekes, Bria Love and Aeisha McDavid follow closely with their running times.

In the women’s 200-meter sprints, the fastest women’s competition, Florence Uwakwe and Janice Jackson contributed to a one-two finish at the UTEP Invitational.

Of course, All-American Anthony Rotich is not only shining, but flourishing as well this year. On April 16, he made his fifth appearance on the Bowerman Watch List. This list encompasses the top 10 student-athletes of the country from all over the nation from every sport.

With the Miners producing success all season, they feel ready for their biggest competition so far in the outdoor season.

“With the Drake Relays, it’s a good way to prepare because it’s a good meet in front of a lot of people and it has a lot of good competition,” Jackson said. “It’s similar to what Conference USA is going to be like. Everyone is going to be gunning for us because we are the defending champions.”

Jackson said being an athlete is a process, and the meets, especially the UTEP Invitational, have helped him to improve.

“It was another track meet for me to get better and for what I have to come later on in the season. I’m looking to only improve from what I started with. I don’t like to take steps back, I like to get better,” Jackson said. “This year, I have been patient. Coach has a plan for me and the plan has been working for me.”

The Miners will send different athletes to two different meets on May 3, the Red Raiders Open in Lubbock, Texas, and the New Mexico Tailwind in Albuquerque before looking to defend last year’s conference title in Houston May 15-18.

Luis Barrio may be reached at [email protected]